The olive trees of Greece have been destroyed many times during her long history. In wartime they were always among the first thing that the enemy attacked, as a way to drive the country to starvation. After the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and later on during the First and Second World Wars, whole groves had to be replanted all over the country.
Some sprang back to life by themselves, a characteristic particular to the olive tree. The few that managed to survive through the hardships of time are considered “Monuments of Nature.” One such tree is the 800-year-old “mother” olive tree in Kalamata, whose fruit is stoneless and whose perimeter measures eight meters (about 24 feet). These trees are treasured like the “Moria” trees of classical Greek times and protected not so much by law but by the reverence and love of the people themselves.
During World War II, when so many people starved to death especially in Greece’s cities, olive oil was precious. Whole blocks of buildings are said to have changed hands overnight for a few jars of olive oil to keep families from starvation. Olive oil companies destroyed their machinery in order to avoid having to cooperate with the Occupation forces.
Throughout Greece’s long history, the olive tree and all it bears has stood the test of time, as revered today as it was 3,000 years ago. To its great credit, it is still used for many of the same things—to nourish, to soothe, to light, to cure.